President Trump will have a speaking role when his animatronic statue is added to the Hall of Presidents at Disney, despite a widely-circulated report by Vice that claimed otherwise.
“The Vice report is inaccurate,” Jacquee Wahler, the vice president of communications for Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement sent to Fox News. “As we have stated, President Trump will have a speaking role in the Hall of Presidents like every president since 1993.
“We have been working closely with the White House and the president’s recording session has been scheduled,” Wahler added. “We have repeatedly stated that the attraction will re-open in late 2017."
The controversy over Trump’s inclusion in the attraction stems from an article first published Vice in May of 2016 — one which reported on the alleged “secret backstage Trump drama” at Walt Disney World. In the article, an inside source for Vice said Disney’s Imagineers were probably not going to give Trump a speaking role “given how polarizing the president is right now.”
Vice later printed a correction in a June 26 article, writing, “The original version of this story was imprecise in describing tension at Disney around the Trump installation in the Hall of Presidents.”
Vice further explained that, while their source spoke with several employees of Disney, he/she never got “direct confirmation from anyone at Disney’s corporate level.”
A day after Vice printed their retraction, Thomas Smith, the editorial content director for Disney Parks, posted an update to the Disney Parks Blog further refuting reports that Trump would be silent during his Hall of Presidents debut.
Smith also echoed Wahler’s claim that the exhibit would reopen in late 2017, which is a bit earlier than Disney CEO Bob Iger estimated last month, Wahler pointed out to Fox News..
However, Trump’s exclusion from Disney’s Hall of Presidents is the subject of multiple Change.org petitions, some of which aim to gain support for excluding him entirely, while another merely wants to relegate his robot to a non-speaking capacity. (As of Wednesday afternoon, the latter had earned nearly 15,000 signatures.)
The Hall of Presidents was one of the original attractions at Walt Disney World upon its grand opening on Oct. 1, 1971. Located in the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square, the show features a short film focusing on the history of the United States, augmented by the animatronic likenesses of each U.S. President. Since 1993, the presentation has also concluded with a pre-recorded speech delivered by the sitting president’s likeness.
Prior to 1993, the show simply ended with a speech delivered by an animatronic Abraham Lincoln, as recited by a voice actor.
The attraction originally closed for refurbishments in January. In addition to Trump’s likeness, Smith says the Hall of Presidents will be returning with “a complete theater upgrade including a new sound system, lighting and high-definition projection system.”